DirecTV Confirms Move Into 3-D Realm

DirecTV on Wednesday confirmed its plans to forge ahead into the brave new world of 3-D TV, a space that is becoming increasingly crowded despite the fact that it doesn’t currently exist.

In what may have been one of the industry’s worst-kept secrets, the satellite-TV provider announced it is cooking up a pay-per-view 3-D HDTV channel, with an eye toward launching the new service in June. DirecTV officially announced the initiative on January 6, at a panel at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Panasonic will serve as the exclusive presenting sponsor of DirecTV’s new 3-D channel, which will offer enhanced programming from a number of network groups, including: CBS, NBC Universal, Fox Sports, MTV, Turner Broadcasting System and HDNet. Per terms of the partnership, Panasonic will be featured on the DirecTV 3-D channel for a one-year period.

The arrangement would give Panasonic an apposite outlet from which to market its new 3-D Viera hi-def sets, Blu-ray players and the world’s first 3-D camcorder, a dual-lensed gizmo that will retail at a cool $21,000.

In addition to the PPV channel, DirecTV will also offer a 3-D video-on-demand service and a free demo channel designed to introduce viewers to some of the available sports- and music-related content.

“We led the way with HD and we are excited to do the same with 3-D,” said Eric Shanks, executive vp, DirecTV Entertainment. “Adding the most HD channels to our lineup gave customers a viewing experience that was incredibly lifelike; adding 3-D to the mix will take that one step further, allowing them to become part of the cast as the picture comes to life in their living rooms.”

According to Shanks, Fox Sports will broadcast the 2010 Major League Baseball All-Star game in 3-D this summer, and DirecTV intends to have its service up and running in time to carry the feed.

The confirmation comes on the heels of two earlier announcements from two of the largest US cable network groups. On Tuesday, ESPN and Discovery laid out their own plans for 3D, with the sports net prepping a June launch. ESPN 3D will debut in time for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, which kicks off June 11 with a match between host nation South Africa and fellow Group A squad Mexico.

Shortly after ESPN revealed its 3-D blueprint, Discovery, Sony and Imax announced they were forming a joint venture to launch a 3-D service in 2011. The new venture will offer 3D movies, specials and series via a dedicated 24-7 feed.

Sony Pictures Television will handle ad sales for the joint venture.